An update on Raleigh’s War against the Poor

Last week I encouraged you all to be in prayer about the situation in Raleigh in which the Raleigh ban on feeding the hungry in Moore square.   I thought for today’s blog I would share an update from Love Wins homeless ministry, who has been in the center of “sausage-gate”.

Taken together with the cuts both in Raleigh and Washington on programs that support the poor and disenfranchised in our communities, people of faith and good will should be mindful and aware.  We are in a pivotal time as a community.

Lets continue to pray and speak up for our need as a community to follow Matthew 25 and be there for the least of these in our midst.  The ongoing testimony of Scripture encapsulated in that text is that as nations and communities we are judged by how we treat the least, the last, and the lost in our midst.

And I’m not just whistling Dixie here,

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

 

Skeptical But Hopeful: The Moore Square Community Meeting

taken from lovewins.info

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Last night’s meeting on “food distribution alternatives” to Moore Square was a community cooperation fairy tale. More than 100 people gathered at Marbles Kids Museum to discuss the following four questions in break out groups.

1. Identify current food distribution locations you serve on the weekends, weekdays, or both. Please provide if it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Please be as specific as possible with address locations for mapping purposes for next meeting.

2. List your priority of where you would like to distribute food. (Please be as specific as you can with the addresses.) Part II – Please list your organizations if this is a location that can be used for food distribution as a possibility.

3. Criteria for feeding locations -What do you need to distribute food safely, humanely, and compassionately. For examples, bus line, sinks for hand washing, etc.

4. What does success look like to you in 6 months?

The inter-agency dialogue was productive and edifying. We put faces with names, shared ideas, and affirmed each other’s efforts. Most groups came to the conclusion that any future location(s) for sharing food need to be in or very close to Moore Square. Or in other words, that there is no “alternative” to Moore Square. Other frequent suggestions included more communication between organizations, a hand washing station, and that the location be on the R-LINE route.

Despite the fairy tale veneer, however, we remain skeptical. Skeptical that the City seeks sustainable change that benefits Raleigh’s most vulnerable citizens. Skeptical that the City seeks to make this process different from past efforts to “help the homeless.” Skeptical that the City seeks authentic dialogue from various groups of stakeholders.

Because when the “dialogue” consists of pre-determined instructions and no time for questions, I’m not sure if that’s dialogue, or just homework.

But we also remain hopeful, knowing that the City of Raleigh has the ability and resources to show the world that it’s a city for everyone.

Moore Square community meeting in the news:

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Finding Inner Peace

inner-peace (1)

Finding Inner Peace

Yesterday I said I would dwell a little about peace in my blog, flowing out of the call to pray and work for peace I experienced both in the invitation to join in Sunday’s international day of prayer for peace and in the news of the horrible attack in the mall in Nairobi, the same city the young lady my wife Katharine and I were host parents for this past year attends school.

I hope all of you were able to meditate on the causes of heartache, conflict, violence, and war on International Prayer for Peace day, praying for their healing and committing to work to transform them. If not, I invite you to do so now and throughout this week. Let us have a week of praying for and working for peace.

peace 1One of the things that contributes to an inability to have peace in our neighborhoods, families, communities, and nations is our inability to find inner peace within ourselves.

In a recent sermon I put it like this:

How many people who nit-pick, second-guess, and tear other’s down, when you get them to sit down and share what’s really on their mind, do you find out really feel they never live up and that’s why they are so hard on others? How many people who put down other’s for being different, such as those who yell out hate speech toward gays or bully people with disabilities, do we later find out themselves are deep in some closet or struggling with some learning disability they are trying to cover up? More than you’d ever imagine. They can’t accept others being different, or not being picture perfect, because they have not yet accepted themselves as different. But when you begin to accept yourself just as you are, as God already has accepted you, you find yourself beginning to accept others.”

These people don’t have inner peace.

But inner peace can also be about not allowing the situations we are in to control us. 1 Kings 19 shows us just such a situation – where Elijah has had his life threatened, is surrounded by difficulty and so overwhelmed that he cannot see the many ways God is working with him and blessing him. Feeling overcome by it all, he flees to be alone in a cave.

 

rushing-inner-peace

Being overwhelmed within can lead us either to turn in and shut others out like Elijah, or project that frustration out on others through acting and speaking to them in ways that are more harsh and hostile than we should, turning our inner turmoil out into outward conflicts. In a way this is what the leaders in Jerusalem did to Jesus, according to the Gospels – they turned their fear of unrest into the action of putting Jesus to death out of fear.

In our individual relationships, in our communities, and on a national level, not knowing how to manage that emotional stress, that fear, and what the Dalai Lama calls “afflictive emotions”, can lead someone to act out those feelings in ways that hurt others – and lead communities to turn to scape-goating, discrimination, violence, and war against those that are different and thus they are afraid of.

What are some things we can do to develop inner peace?

1. Cultivate acceptance of yourself.

As I mentioned earlier, often it is the one who has not learned to accept his or her own self, own gifts and limitations, who is the most difficult with others.

Too often Christians get the idea that to be humble and loyal to God they must look down on themselves. I think about one person I met a few years ago who, who, whenever I asked him what he wanted prayer for, would say – Oh, don’t pray for me. I want all the prayer you would offer for me, offered for someone else. I’m not anybody. I don’t deserve your prayers.He would turn down every compliment, and lived life, head hung low, thinking he was worthless because that’s what he thought being humble was.

You even hear it at times in our songs at church, when we sing as if we are worthless to God, not knowing how God could ever deign to love us.self acceptance 1

Look sometime at the example the Prince of Peace makes both in the Gospel and passages like Philippians 2. Jesus isn’t hanging his head down, believing he is not worth anything there. No, Jesus from the start knows he is equal with God. He knows, as he says in the Gospels, that He and the Father are One. Jesus knows he is loved, he is worth something. And it is because of this that Jesus is able to fearlessly put aside his own needs, serve others, and offer up his life for others. It is because of this he can be a man of peace for the whole world.

I would suggest that in order to be able to really know how to work together with others, to be people of peace, we need to know who we are. And, just like Jesus, you and I are not garbage to be laid out by the side of the road. We are worth something. You and I are precious to God.

Ephesians 1, verses 3-11, beautifully describes who you and I are – quite literally, the apple of God’s eye. I’m going to change the word “us” to “you”, to make it more personal, but listen and when it says “you” imagine your name there—

God … has blessed you in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. 4 God chose you in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. 5 God destined you to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. … You have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and you have forgiveness for your failures based on his overflowing grace, 8 which he poured over you with wisdom and understanding. 9 … You have also received an inheritance in Christ. You were destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design.

Hear that. Let it sink in. Who did God bless? You. Who did God adopt? You. Who did God choose? You. Who has God destined from the very beginning? You. Who did God find so worth it that God ransomed them with God’s own life blood? You. Who has full forgiveness and an inheritance that cannot be taken away? You.

Friend, you are no throw-away.

Christian author Marianne Williamson beautifully sums this up when she says “We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Until you really let that sink in, it will be hard to really be there for others, hard to work for peace.

2. Take sabbath


Which is another way of saying plan regular time-outs. When I worked as a mental health tech with children with anxiety problems, we would often teach the children to take a time-out when they became agitated and frustrated, especially if they felt they might let their agitation lead them to respond harshly or inappropriately. This isn’t to punish them, but so that they can cool off, relax, and get a better grip on their own feelings. We often fail to remember what was good advice when we were kids, remains good advice today.

In fact it is such good advice that the Ten Commandments encouraged Israel to take breaks. They were told there to take one day in seven off from work, stress, and labor to let their mind and bodies rest. What’s more the law God gave to them even went so far as later to encourage them to take one year in seven to let the land rest, and for them to rest as well.

In Genesis God models taking time out from the busy work of creating by resting on sabbath.

jesus-restingAnd though the New Testament clearly says in verses like Romans 14 that the letter of the law of sabbath observance isn’t required by God, we see Jesus modeling its spirit. Again and again when Jesus is surrounded by the stress and anxiety of the crowd’s constant needs and requests for help, Jesus leaves the crowd, goes to a solitary place alone, and both rests & centers himself through prayer and meditation.

Jesus models following the spirit of sabbath by taking regular time-outs from stress to ensure he does not burn out. Without doing so we allow our physical and emotional reserves to run out, so that we do not have the wherewithal to be there for others or even sort out our own feelings.

Without rest our exhaustion can get the better of us and we can make some pretty poor choices that hurt others, lashing out.  This will stand in the way of us being able to be peace-makers.

In our constantly plugged in, constantly moving society, it is easy to get overloaded if we do not daily-choresunplug, turn off the noise, and take some time to be. Yesterday I did so through  simple acts like going to the gym to work off steam, taking some time to be in nature, walking through a local farmer’s market, and writing some poetry. All of this was much needed time of being with myself and being before God, which helped me re-charge after a 24-hour shift at the hospital.

How can you re-charge?

What is true of individuals is true of communities.

At times we need to take a step back at the workplace, in the church, or in our community groups. We may need a staff retreat, a time to engage in community-building, or changes to the routine that break us out of the patterns. Often such groups return reinvigorated with some tensions lifted.

I wonder, as cities, counties, and nations, how our responses to fear and threat would be if instead of acting on knee-jerk reactions of fear, anger, and vengeance, we sometimes took more of a collective pause to grieve, mourn, breathe, and center ourselves. It might be that other solutions to violence & warfare would emerge.

3. Engaging in centering activities

There are a number of activities which some people take part in regularly to help them develop more inner peace:

  • Mindfulness

mindfulness-quote-jon-kabat-zinnMindfulness is an exercise aimed at helping you become aware of what is happening within your heart, mind, and life in order to help you be free from being controlled by anxieties and afflictive emotions you aren’t aware of. Often instead of becoming aware of them we push them down and try to hide them, but in reality those undealt with feelings of stress just grow. It is like filling a balloon with water. It will keep growing, growing, and growing as long as it the balloon is underneath the faucet. Unless you stop the water coming in or pour some of it out, the constant flowing in of water will make that balloon pop. These exercises are aimed at helping keep that balloon from popping.

The way most people practice mindfulness is to stop what they are doing, and sit comfortably in a chair, breathing slowly and carefully. They then pay attention to their breath, to the way their body feels, and what they are beginning to think and feel. Mindfulness is not about shutting off what you are thinking or clearing your mind. Instead you just let your feelings and thoughts go, like water flowing down a river. You observe, you notice what thoughts, memories, and feelings enter your mind, without judging them whether with approval or disapproval, and without trying to change or dwell on any of them. Just a few minutes of focused mindfulness a day can really help you reduce your stress. It does so by relaxing your body, relaxing the tension on your mind. But it also makes you aware of what is going on in your mind and heart, which helps you figure out how to better manage your life without just projecting your feelings on others.

One wonderful thing about mindfulness is that, though people usually do it just a few minutes a day in a set place and time, you can actually engage in mindfulness throughout your day just by taking a few seconds to pay attention to your breathing, to your senses, to your body, and to what you are thinking & feeling.

A great introduction to Christian mindfulness of the type that goes throughout the whole day is Brother Lawrence’s classic Practicing the Presence of God.  Without using the word, Brother Lawrence describes methods of making mindfulness a moment by moment, daily practice so that we do as Scripture says and remain prayerful continually.

  • Meditation

meditation+dogs+do+it+too_99a07b_3753826Meditation is very similar to mindfulness, but instead of just paying attention to how you feel, in meditation practices one focuses one’s attention on something set that helps you release stress . For example, you might recite a line of poetry, Scripture, or a pre-written prayer. You might focus your attention on nature for a few minutes a day, just taking in every detail you see. You might focus on a piece of art, an image in your mind, the words of a song, taking in every detail. Focusing on those details help you become present in the moment, taking one moment at a time and not being swept up in what has happened in the past or might happen in the future.

Believers often will use the Scriptures as a tool in meditation, reading over a set of Scripture over and over again to take in all of its many details, imagining themselves within either its story or the image its words paint a picture of. Lectio divina and imaginative visualization are two forms of meditation through use of Scripture.

Christians often will practice meditation through prayer as well. Centering and breath prayers use short statements that are repeated like “Christ, have mercy” that one either says repeatedly focusing on each word as in centering prayer, or throughout the day as in breath prayers.  

These and many other forms of meditation help center the mind, clear away the stress and noise of life, carving out space and time for inner peace. And as the example of Elijah in the cave from earlier shows, it is often only through silencing that noise that we can hear the Prince of Peace’s still small voice guiding us in the way of peace.

  • Journaling

journalingIn journaling, people write out their feelings, including feelings of stress and anxiety. By letting them out they keep them from just building up to a boiling point. Some people journal through blogs, through writing poetry or songs, and some people even combine journaling with prayer by writing letters to God.

4. Find someone safe to talk to about your feelings of stress

In a way the Bible alludes to this when it encourages us to confess our sins one to another in order to find healing (James 5). There is something healing about opening up to another person about what you are struggling about.

It may be a close friend, another church member, a pastor, a spiritual director, or a therapist, but it is is important to find others to lean on during your times of stress and anxiety. Finding that trusted other to share your own anxiety, fears, and deep feelings with can help free you to become a person of peace.

We also can go to God and talk to God in the same way, openly and honestly about how we feel. Philippians 4:6-7 puts it well when it tells us “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” By sharing our stress and anxiety with God we can find remarkable peace.

6. Laugh

Laughing-JesusPsalm 126 describes laughter as a sign of freedom and liberation. I often say laughter is a sign of grace: we laugh when we face something that doesn’t fit but find by a gift of God’s grace we can go on anyway.

We often in discussing mindfulness and prayer forget the power of laughter. Taking time to play, to laugh, and to enjoy humor can help relieve your stress and cultivate peace. They are powerful tools in cultivating inner peace.

In closing, I want to share with you a song celebrating how God can bring us peace in the midst of trouble by Rich Mullins as well as the words of Psalm 46, which connect the willingness to be still – which these practices are aimed at doing – in cultivating the sort of inner peace that lets us destroy the spear and bow, the weapons of war, and thus embracing a lifestyle of peace-making.

And I’m not just whistling Dixie,

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

Redneck preacher

= = =

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Let’s Hear the Prayer Bells and Blow our Trumpets for Peace

peace 3

Let’s Hear the Prayer Bells

and the Trumpets of Peace

Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly..” – Joel 2:15

I had a heart-wrenching wake-up call this morning. It was like a trumpet-call of attention.

After just a short rest following my 24 hour shift at the hospital, I had jumped on the machines at the gym. My wife calls “Did you hear about Nairobi?”

My heart sunk.

As you may remember from a previous blog, last year my wife Katharine and I opened our heart and lives to a young lady from Kenya who we loved and embraced as if she was our own daughter. It was for both of us a life-changing experience. Well, Nairobi is the city where her school is.

The news was a group had gone in and shot up a mall near where she lives. So for a good hour or two my heart could barely beat in fear of what might become of her.

Which reminded me in one of the more frightening ways I can imagine that today is the International Day of Prayer for Peace. For many of us, I think the reality of violence was brought home in the gassing of the citizens of Syria a short time ago, and the threat of war still hangs over us while we hope and pray for a peaceful resolution to the human rights abuses going on there and elsewhere in this world.

mend world 2

I want to invite and challenge folks reading this to take a few minutes to meditate on the conflict in the world and how you can be a source of peace in your neighborhood, your life, and your world.

I hope in honor of this call to prayer to spend some time throughout this upcoming week with reflections on peace on my blog. Please join me in your own way in prayer for peace.

Today as a reflection on the cost of violence on our lives, here is a poem I wrote in honor of the international day of prayer for peace. Along with it I am including a video of one of my favorite prayers for peace sung by the 1980’s rock band “White Lion”.

Wherever there is violence, war, and abuse of human rights whether by government, terrorists, or gangs in the streets, we need to pray for the Prince of Peace’s reign to be made known. Wherever those evils reigns, someone’s baby girl – and baby boy – lies threatened and risk.

Let us turn our hearts to the hurting and broken in our world, letting our prayers and our lives be answers to their cries of violence and war.

And I’m not just whistling Dixie here,

your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

micah pic

Ongoing Incarnation

breakbreadI lift it up, firm yet pliant, aromatically doughy

hear the rip of it tearing in my hands

and think of the calloused skin

of men toiling under the hot sun

often with little pay

in constant threat,

ever asking themselves:

Will I be sent back as illegal

unwanted

rejected?

despite their long labors

and searching for hope

toiling to plant and harvest the grain that bore this loaf?

As I open my mouth, ready to whisper ancient words

I cannot but think of the body I watched

laying still and quiet

a tangle of cords its shroud

entombed amidst white hospital walls

just as sure as that fated Galilean lay

in rocky borrowed grave

the only sounds surrounding it are

the constant beep of machines

we call life support

which instead of bringing life

simply delay the inevitable

freeing of that one woman’s soul

from a body

transformed from a house of joy

to a stifling prison of pain,

a sound that mingles with

machine-borne labored breaths

which together resound in that room

like water dripping

on stalagmites

deep below Linville caverns.

“This is my body,” my lips whisper

and I cannot but have my mind transported

to the hills and seas of Uganda

where Idi Amin left bodies

Child Abuse Statisticspiled in the sun

of little girls

just like that African princess

who is like a daughter to me

whom he thought defective,

and the smoke clouds of Aushwitz,

which rose engulfing all those

whom madmen called unworthy

while good people watched unmoved.

“Broken” I whisperabuse 1

and think of the man

whose life remains shattered

by one he trusted as a boy

who left scars no , nor time itself, can heal.

“Broken” echoes

as I remember little girls and mothers

hiding for their life

from the ones that left them bruised.

communionI take the cup, I raise the glass,

and realize

in each of them the Sacred Light burns bright

just as surely as it shined in Mary’s baby boy

and in me.

This is my cup, I hear him whisper as I say his words

poured out in you and many.

As I hear Him, I rememberhomeless in jesus arms

how often we fail to see.

We say “keep those dirty souls out of our parks”

not letting love win for the likes of them.

We say “send them back”,

forgetting that it is in their eyes,

eyes of the stranger

the broken

and the poor,

that the Savior’s eyes shine back upon us.

We say “they are too far away”

while so many baby girls

fall under tyrant’s tank

and terrorist’s bomb

their fathers likewise

helpless to save them.

And I fall to my knees

broken

remembering

all those I turned away

not seeing

calling crazy, faggot,

wetback, and gimp

heart broken wide,

face wet with tears.

And somehow, somewhere,

in the music of the moment

I hear a whispered reminder

This, broken, is my body.

gods handsThis one poured out bears my life.

Be my body, broken with the broken,

be my life, poured out to the empty.

Let us lay a table together

in the valley of death

so your cup overflows

with drank of healing

for all my who lie broken

trembling in fear.

Whatever Happened to Southern hospitality?

My devotional this morning reminded me that today, September 15, 1963, that a southern man named Robert Chambliss placed a bomb under the steps of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, and killed 4 children, injuring 22 others.

The devotional book reminds me of God’s cry in Matthew — “A  voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more”

I can’t help thinking of this verse and this example as I think about what is going on in my state right now.

I am a born and bred North Carolinian, but my heart breaks as I think about the way in which as a state we are letting our fears lead us to neglect and hurt God’s children in our midst.

Right now our state is waging a war on the poor and minorities.  We have passed a number of laws recently which cut support for the poorest and most disenfranchised among.  We have put barriers to the voting booth, and have repealed a law requiring no one to be executed for the color of their skin.   God is like Rachel weeping for her children, mourning.

We just a few years ago spoke loudly to the children of parents in same-gender partnerships that their family is under threat by our state, not protected because they are different.  Recently a teacher in one of our schools fired for trying to teach tolerance and understanding toward gay and lesbian peers, who are often bullied into depression and suicide in our schools.   God is like Rachel weeping for her children, mourning.

Just this past month, the homeless ministries such as Love Wins in Raleigh, NC, were told it is against the law to follow Jesus’ mandate in Matthew 25 to the feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the hurting in the capitol of our state: and that if they do not stop their feeding programs for the least of these, they are going to jail.   God is like Rachel, weeping for her children, mourning for their pain.

When I think of all that is going on in our state I cannot help but think of a question a lady from the Mid-West in my home church asked, after moving here.  “I keep hearing about all this southern hospitality.  Where is it?”   I have to shake my head and wonder.

Where is the southern hospitality, that welcomes the stranger as friend, that says “there is room at the table for you, come put your feet under it with me over sweet tea and corn bread”?  We need this so badly right now.  What we are doing is denying the basic truth we claim to celebrate as a culture — hospitality.

This hospitality is at the heart of the Biblical message.  In Matthew 25 Jesus tells us that when we are hospitable to the stranger, we extend hospitality to God who is already present in their life.   In Hebrews we are told to welcome the stranger is to welcome God’s ambassadors, God’s angels come to visit us.  This is what Abram, the fore-father of not just our faith but also Judaism and Islam, did.  Ultimately Scripture tells us Sodom fell not because of what went on in people’s bed-rooms but because of their lack of hospitality to the least of these.

I want to challenge all of us to embrace true hospitality.

I also want to mention some initiatives some southern progressives are involved with that are a start:

First, the work of Moral Mondays has continued.  Consider following and supporting work by groups like the NAACP in raising the cry of the poor and disenfranchised.

Also, support the cry going up to hear the voice of the poor.  We have hobophobia, to use the term coined by the head of Love Wins homeless ministry.  He outlines some things we can do to help with “biscuite-gate” in his recent blog:

“The City’s next move to satisfy the seemingly predetermined conclusion to their public relations and policy nightmare is a public meeting on Monday, September 16, in Marbles Kids Museum, the president of which openly voiced her disapproval of food distribution in Moore Square at the Law and Public Safety Committee hearing on August 28. She also asserted in her statement that the business the museum has brought to Raleigh is more valuable than the people who hang out in Moore Square.

“Oh, and this is the third year in a row that Marbles has received funding from the City of Raleigh Arts Council. So you tell me if this seems choreographed to you.

“Because the deck is stacked against us, it’s important that people like you show up at the meeting to support the rights of those of us who are poor. Meeting time and exact location are here.

“The meeting’s format will differ from that of a public hearing. What we know is that the audience will split into small groups, each with a facilitator, maps, easels, and a City employee documenting the conversation. We’re not sure who the facilitators will be. The small groups will brainstorm. We’re also not sure where or to whom that information will go.

“It’s important to remember that the meeting is only about food distribution. It’s not about shelters, transportation, or health care. Knowing that, a few key ideas to keep in mind while in your small group:

– This is a geographical issue. It is not acceptable that distribution locations exist solely or even primarily in areas off of the bus line, like north Raleigh, or in areas already struggling with poverty, like southeast Raleigh. We will not accept a solution that further pushes poor people out of the downtown core, and we certainly won’t let the City push people into the largely ignored part of town just because it thinks that poor folks already fit in better there anyway.

– The temporary non-enforcement of the ordinance prohibiting sharing food in the park is just that– temporary. Another decision will come at the November 26 City Council meeting. It is by no means a long-term, sustainable solution to ignoring and devaluing Raleigh’s most vulnerable citizens for decades.

– By not already having installed a weekend food distribution solution, the City has shifted the burden to the private sector. Namely, nonprofits and religious groups. The City has refused to claim its most vulnerable citizens, and then it placed constraints on the very people who try to pick up its slack. Most of whom, by the way, are also citizens of Raleigh and pay the taxes to keep up Moore Square. The City needs to take ownership of a weekend food distribution solution instead of disempowering the people who try to show compassion for their hungry neighbors.

“At some point the City will form a task force of interested organizations that will meet three times before the November 26 City Council meeting. The task force will make recommendations to the City Council on how it should handle the apparently very complicated issue of making sure that all of its citizens are taken care of.

“Remaining Hopeful

“We are, as you can imagine, beyond frustrated. No one likes being lied to. No one likes being the target of a systemic plot to keep you out. No one likes to think they live in a city where that would be tolerated, let alone carried out by City officials.

“Regardless, we remain prisoners of hope. We hope that the City will call the plotters into account. We hope for the day when the only hope of the hungry is not some church lady from the ‘burbs to bring a sandwich. Heck, we hope for a day when there are no hungry. But right now, we are just captivated with the hope that one day we will see a Raleigh that is for everyone.”

Finally, another southern progressive preacher, Rev. Katharine Royal from the Progressive Christian Alliance, is spear-heading an event on the same Monday, which focuses on practicing hospitality toward GLBT youth.  She can reached at reverend_katharine@yahoo.com.   Here is her write-up about her initiative:

“As some of you may know, this past week a teacher in NC was suspended for showing his students the music video to Macklemore’s “Same Love.” I truly hope millions of others are as outraged by this as I am. Parents and administrators seem unfazed by students listening to music about drugs, gang violence, promiscuity and excessive drinking, yet a song about acceptance and love elicits this horrible response. Well, we aren’t going to sit idly by. Wherever you are Monday, whether it’s at your work place or at your own school, take time to play this song on your ipod, mp3 player, phone or computer for EVERYONE to hear.”

These are not the only paths to practice hospitality, but they are a place to begin.

Learning to live out hospitality is so key.  As Martin Luther King once wrote, Unless we learn to live together as brothers, we will all die together as fools.

And I ain’t just whistling Dixie!

Your progressive Redneck Preacher,

Micah Royal